It has been called one of America’s “whitest big cities” – with 66 percent of residents describing themselves as non-Hispanic white in the 2010 census – but it is not immune to black-mob attacks on a pregnant woman, veterans, the elderly, young people, homosexuals, Asians and others.
Seattle has “fewer problems with racism than other cities,” said the blog So Seattle. “Ethnic tensions … seem less tangible.”
While Seattle may not have the day-in, day-out racial violence of a Chicago, or the peculiar racial lawlessness of small-town Peoria, more and more, people are paying attention to the increasingly visible and brutish mayhem black mobs are visiting on their victims.
In 2010, 17-year-old Jessica Redmon-Beckstead – who was pregnant at the time – was riding the bus with her boyfriend when five black women taunted, attacked, kicked, punched and robbed her.
The assailants were laughing the whole time. One even complained about a broken fingernail.
“My girlfriend’s pregnant!” shouted the boyfriend as they punched her and kicked him in the face.
One woman yelled, “We didn’t hit her in the stomach!”
Her retort got a few laughs – and then the violence resumed.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the suspects were all riding the bus with free passes from Seattle Public Schools. Within a few weeks, all five were arrested, charged and convicted.
The baby was born healthy.
The day after the attack, King County Sheriff Sue Rahr assured citizens of Seattle this hyper-violent episode was an “isolated incident and could have happened anywhere.”
At least part of Rahr’s statement was correct: It could happen anywhere. And often does.
But it is far from isolated, as even the local TV news reporters discovered. Bus rider Gil Costello told the local Fox affiliate, KCPQ, violence on the bus “happens all the time. They just never report it.”
The Fox station reported a few months before that a disabled man was ”terrorized” on a bus then punched in the face and knocked out.
Just months ago, an Iraq war veteran in a suburb of Seattle was riding a bus when he confronted several black passengers who were using foul language – including the “N” word.
They attacked him. The Marine veteran fought back and drove them off the bus. The incident was captured on video. The shaken suspects were last seen quickly leaving the bus. No arrests were made.
Last summer, aspiring rapper Ondrell Harding beat a man to death in the man’s home. At least five people saw it: the victim’s wife and preteen son and a few of Harding’s friends.
The district attorney did not file charges because he was unable to determine who started the altercation.
Four months later, Harding and five of his friends beat up another man at a bus stop. They told police the single victim attacked them. This time, the district attorney filed charges and convicted him. Harding received a three-month sentence.
“When you look me in my eyes you see a coldblooded killer,” he sings in one verse. Another track has the ominous title “I Will Kill a Man.”
Also, there were about 20 black people who participated – or stood by and did nothing – in a beating at the Seattle Metro Bus terminal – all under the gaze of one video camera and three security guards. The recording revealed a lot of kicking and shouting.
In yet another recent incident, at least three black men stood outside a Denny’s restaurant in May 2012. While one worked the video and the other narrated, the third broke into the restaurant after he was denied entrance, causing extensive damage in the process.
In another case just last year, lesbian community activist and artist Kayla Stone was assaulted by a crowd of black and Hispanic people who taunted her with anti-gay slurs. The following night, they beat her up.
Almost as sensational as the black mob beating up a pregnant teenager is the case of the Seattle teenager who last summer was assaulted and tortured for several hours because he was white and his attackers believed the victim’s ancestors were to blame for slavery.
The victim told KOMO news: “They started bringing up the past – like slavery – being like, white people did this,” Shane said.
The attackers stripped off McClellan’s belt and started whipping his back.
“They said, ‘This is for what your people did to our people.’ They were like whipping me with my belt, my studded belt,” Shane recounted.
“They’re like, ‘Aw, white boy, what are you doing? You can’t hang out this late. What are you doing around here?’ They’re like, ‘White boy has no belonging – being out here at 2 a.m.’”
Shane added, “They targeted me for being white, and they made it very clear that’s why they were assaulting me.”
The victim’s father said the attack was nothing short of hours of torture.
“Put a gun to the back of his head and told him if he said anything they were going to blow his head off while they sat there and burned him with cigarettes on the back of the neck,” he said.
Both were arrested, convicted and sentenced – one to seven years, the other to five years and nine months. One was black, and the other was Asian. They said they were sorry.
No report of racial violence and lawlessness in Seattle can be considered complete without a mention of the biggest and nastiest bit of racial business in the history of that town. It’s an event that echoes today: the Seattle Mardi Gras Riot of 2001, where, for three-and-half hours, tens of thousands of people watched helplessly, and police stood by quietly as a race riot broke out.
There were reports of widespread brawling, vandalism, and weapons being brandished. Damage to local businesses exceeded $100,000.
Much of the violence was perpetrated by black men against white revelers, and about 70 people were reported injured. Several women were sexually assaulted. One person, Kris Kime, died of injuries sustained during an attempt to assist a woman being brutalized.
For the millions who saw the photos or video, those images burned into the retina: gangs of feral youth beating, kicking, and pummeling male and female victims.
In almost all of the violent images of that night on TV and in the daily news- papers, the attackers were black and the victims were white. Thanks to our local media, this is the idea of the 2001 Mardi Gras riots that most people carry with them. The poster victim of Fat Tuesday, Kris Kime, was also white, and police now say the suspects in his murder are black. The fallout from all this is that many people assume the attacks were racially motivated.
Whatever the “fallout,” the one person convicted of murder that night, Jerell Thomas, served eight years before getting out on a technicality. Within a few months, he was back in prison for assaulting his girlfriend.
Today, people make videos of the site, which includes a memorial plaque.
For all the visible violence in Seattle, city officials are adamant that their town is safe.
Just look at the statistics, they argue.
That didn’t make sense to Nihan Thai, who was recently robbed and assaulted.
He soon discovered that nearly everyone else in his neighborhood had been attacked as well.
Earlier this year, he talked to KING-TV about the crime. He was walking home from the light rail station, he recalled: “I was literally ten steps away from the house. And I felt a hit on my right face and another hit on the back of my neck and on my lower back, and so as I was falling forward I felt hands grabbing my jacket and my bag.”
Two months later, not far from where Thai was attacked, another man was grabbed from behind, robbed and beaten. His name was Danny Vega, and he died.
Thai, like Vega, is Asian and openly gay. Before he died, Vega told police “he’d been attacked by three African-American males, all around 18 years of age,” according to the Post-Intelligencer. It was the 10th such attack in that area in two months, all near the corner of Martin Luther King Way and Othello Street.
All of the suspects in all of the crimes are black.
“Thai started visiting his neighbors, they had a lot to say, and soon he realized he was doing his own crime survey. Thai knocked on 49 doors. Thirty-two people were home. How many of them had been victims of a crime since moving to the neighborhood? All but three.
Many victims told Thai they’d never reported the crimes to police.
“It happens to them so often that after two or three times they stopped reporting because they didn’t see any progress,” said Thai.
Thai’s survey was unscientific, but it did cause residents to raise the question of whether crime is going unreported in the south end.
Vega’s neighbors had a meeting soon after his death to discuss “this violence and how do we actually get to the root of it,” said Connie Burk of the Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse to KCPQ-TV. “And how do we actually change the conditions that allow this happen.”